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One third of learning disability social care providers forced to shut services

Social care providers are facing a perfect storm of workforce challenges and rising cost pressures, according to new research, with many forced to turn down admissions to services and, in severe cases, shut services altogether.

27/04/22

One third of learning disability social care providers forced to shut services

Research has found that three quarters of learning disability care providers turned down new admissions to services in 2021, while more than a third had to close their services permanently.

The independent research, commissioned by learning disability charity Hft as part of its annual Sector Pulse Check, found that the closures were due in part to an average staff vacancy rate of nearly 16%.

Nearly all providers surveyed said they believe that increases in staff wages could help recruitment and retention challenges, however four in five said that the fees they receive from local authorities to deliver care will not be enough to cover their wage bills.

“Social care staff should be paid a fair wage, one which is commensurate with the responsibilities of the job and that will help reduce high turnover and vacancy rates in the sector,” Kirsty Matthews, CEO of Hft said.

“Despite the introduction of a higher National Living Wage earlier in April, record inflation means that, in real terms, most front-line staff will not see a pay uplift and workforce challenges will persist as employees cope with the cost of living increase.”

One in 10 providers will need to cover 20% of their wage bill from their own reserves, rather than through fees paid by local authorities to deliver the right standard of care to those they support, according to the research. On average, each provider surveyed will need to find £640,000 to cover the cost of wages.

The research comes at a time when the sector is in an increasingly precarious financial position, with more than seven in ten (71%) of providers reporting they are either in deficit, with costs exceeding funding, or that their surplus has decreased. This has increased from 56% in 2020. Alongside workforce challenges, the research highlights that financial pressure is causing providers to hand back contracts to local authorities and offering care to fewer people to remain sustainable.

The charity is now calling on the Government to urgently redirect additional funds from the Health and Social Care Levy into social care from year one to ensure there is sufficient funding to cover wages which reflect the real-term cost of living and attract more individuals to work in the sector.
Over 20 CEOs of learning disability care providers have signed a joint letter to Care Minister, Gillian Keegan MP.

“The last two years have posed an unprecedented challenge to the social care sector, which had already been struggling prior to the pandemic, as a result of poor funding,” said Jonas Keck, Economist at independent economics and business consultancy Cebr, which carried out the research.

“The increase in the National Living Wage in April will hit the sector especially hard, as a large number of social care staff are paid at the minimum rate. This will put further financial pressure on already distressed providers, as for the majority, the funding received by local authorities will not be enough to cover the additional costs stemming from higher wages.”

“This year’s Hft Sector Pulse Report clearly exposes the extent to which rising cost pressures and critical workforce challenges are impacting on social care providers and the essential care and support services they deliver for disabled people and their families,” said Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).

“Consequently, voluntary sector services in particular are becoming unviable, and it is people who draw on social care, and the workforce supporting them, who will be hit the hardest.”

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